46-year-old Ethiopian national Seblework Alemayehu Zeleke discovered a small lump in her right breast, around October 2022, and back then she had no idea that it was a rare tumour that could even be cancerous.
She neglected the lump and it started growing. In less than a month, a protrusion could be seen. Worried, Zeleke consulted a doctor in her hometown. The tests confirmed that she had a phyllodes tumour - a rare and rapidly growing tumour that could be malignant.
Phyllodes tumours occur very rarely in the breast and account for less than one per cent of the breast tumours worldwide. They tend to grow into giant masses quickly, often stretching the skin and affecting the individual's overall appearance.
Learning about her condition, Zeleke and her family were devastated.
Recalling her feelings at the time, she said: “Ours was a happy family. The news deprived us of happiness. All of us were scared. The tumour was growing, and I could sense and feel it. We did not know what to do. The first few days, I could only cry and pray. The doctor told me surgery was the only option and must be performed at the earliest. We were confused."
She then spoke to a family member who had recently undergone a similar procedure in the UAE. “The conversation with my cousin became a turning point in my life. She introduced me to Dr Dilber Pareed, a general and laparoscopic surgeon at Aster Hospital, Sharjah. I consulted him online and decided to travel to Sharjah for further treatment,” Zeleke said, adding that Dr Pareed was very reassuring and explained the procedure in detail and the safety of it.
Zeleke flew from Ethiopia to Sharjah in the second week of December. By the time she reached, the lump had grown into a huge mass. The doctor performed relevant investigations, including breast ultrasound, to determine the present size and affected areas. The scan report revealed that the lump had grown to a size of a football.
“They rapidly grow into a huge mass and affect the overall appearance of the individual, which can sometimes be very depressing," Dr Pareed said. "In this case, it had grown into the size of a football in less than two months. Early wide excision of the mass is the remedy,” he added.
Generally, patients affected by breast tumours lose their shape post the procedure. They further need to undergo breast reconstruction surgery to reinstate the shape.
“Zeleke was worried about this. However, the surgery went well. It took about an hour to complete the procedure,” said Dr Pareed, adding that further to the joy and relief of Zeleke, the biopsy report has come negative for malignancy.
She was discharged on the third-day post-surgery. “I am so relieved now. I thank the Almighty for being kind to us and guiding us throughout this difficult phase. I am recovering well now. The wounds are healing, and I am looking forward to flying back to my family in Ethiopia soon,” said Zeleke.